2005 Jaguar S-Type
It gets bandied about so often that it’s practically a cliché, but it’s true that there’s nothing quite like a Jaguar.
Now, that’s technically true about any car, but in Jaguar’s case it’s an especially distinguishing feature. Among luxury cars and luxury sport sedans, the competition is so fierce that the constant application of “me-too” features and the latest fashionable design tweaks results in a trend toward homogeneity. It’s easy to drive coast-to-coast in an Acura, Infiniti, Volvo or Mercedes, but often a bit difficult to find anything like a personality. Not so with Jaguar. For better or for worse, the British manufacturer’s products stand apart from the luxury car herd, and always have. The 2005 S-Type is no exception to this rule. From its retro-influenced styling to its fluid grace on the road, the S-Type still stands out, even though it’s been around since 1999 without major design changes–and even though Detroit is hip-deep in the things these days, since all the Ford executives are driving them.
As has long been the case with Jaguars, the first thing that sets the S-Type apart is its design. The design has been tweaked for ’05, but the basic themes haven’t changed much. Low and curved, this car crouches at the curb, rather than standing up tall as is the current, SUV-mimicking fashion. Competitors like the Lexus GS and Mercedes E-Class look like Brinks trucks next to the curvy S-Type. What the S-Type lacks in altitude, it makes up for in attitude, however. The four-eyed face and oval grille beneath a chrome “leaper” hood ornament are Jaguar hallmarks modernized for the new millennium, and they look great. The design changes are subtle, and serve only to enhance the S-Type’s pleasantly familiar face. The lines of the hood and front bumper have been simplified for a cleaner look. The grille is lower and wider as well, but you’d almost have to park new and old side-by-side before you’d notice. Equally hidden to the casual glance is the new aluminum hood, which reduces weight and helps lower the car’s center of gravity for improved handling. The S-Type’s side aspect has been cleaned up as well, and the rear is less square than it was–in fact, the trunklid has been flattened out, to improve high-speed performance. Our test car featured the Sport package, which adds massive, athletic thin-spoked 18″ wheels that fill the wheel wells nicely.
Slip inside, and the interior is, well, cozy. Snug, even. The S-Type is a great deal smaller on the inside than its competitors, to the point that it’s best thought of as a coupe with a habitable back seat, rather than a sedan. Five full-size adults can squeeze into an S-Type, but it had better be a short trip. Headroom in the back seat can be tight for tall passengers, too. The up-side is a handsome interior layout with chronograph gauges and a center stack ringed by leather. High-tech aluminum trim accents replace the traditional wood on the dash and console when the Sport option box is selected, as in our test car, but frankly the wood looks better and the high-zoot S-Type VDP’s generous walnut trim is closer to what one expects to find in a Jaguar. The LCD display for the radio controls that looks like an unfortunate flashback to 1990. The narrow windshield adds to the sensation that the S-Type is wrapped tightly around you. The S-Type has none of the elegant-but-sterile boardroom feeling of many lux sedans, and it’s almost enough to make up for the unfortunate rack of downmarket plastic buttons and annoying “J-gate” shift pattern. The seats are comfortable, and there’s enough space in the trunk for luggage for four. The S-Type makes a convincing argument as a grand touring car, though it’s not quite as suited to executive-shuttle duty.
On the road, this Jaguar rises far above our ergonomic quibbles. A choice of 3.0 liter V6, 4.2 liter V8 and supercharged V8 engines is available. We drove the 235 horsepower 3.0, and found it to be an eager and sturdy powerplant. The all-aluminum, 24-valve engine features continuously variable cam phasing for added torque and responsiveness. On-ramps and rolling acceleration are its strong points, and at freeway speeds the V6 comes on as strong as a Benz. It’s a good singer, as well–remember, Jaguar’s forte is atmosphere, and the engine note is a big part of that. The six-speed automatic transmission is fantastic and a smooth shifter even under hard acceleration. For drivers who want to go chasing BMWs and the like, Jaguar’s performance-leading S-Type R offers 390 horses from its supercharged 4.2 liter V8. Jaguar reports a 5.3 second 0-60 run, about two seconds quicker than the V6-powered S-Type.
Handling is also exemplary. The S-Type has a taut, tied-together feeling that’s lacking in most sports sedans. The body structure feels as stiff as if it had a rollcage, and this results in sharp reflexes. Unequal-length wishbones up front benefit from light aluminum control arms and toe links designed to keep the front wheels planted. The S-Type is very much an athlete, even in the “lighter” 3.0 V6 format.
Safety equipment is of course exemplary, with front, side and side-curtain airbags standard on all S-Types. Anti-lock brakes and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) are also standard equipment. Panic braking and emergency maneuvers never seem to raise the S-Type’s pulse rate; hit the brakes hard and the car just stops, drama-free.
We found the S-Type to be expensive in comparison to other cars in its class. Our test car was an S-Type 3.0, with a base price of $44,230. Its out-the-door price of $48,995 included the Sport package, heated seats and a sunroof, but did not include a navigation system, all-wheel drive, hands-free phone or other upscale options that are available in other cars at this price point. The S-Type R’s price has actually been dropped by about $4000 for 2005, and supercharged Jaguar performance now starts at $58,995. Which brings us back to the Jaguar difference, which is in a large part what you’re paying for here. Nothing else feels quite like the S-Type, and if the athletic feeling of a Jaguar is what you’re after, this is a good way to get it.
All specs are for the 2005 Jaguar S-Type 3.0, which we tested.
Length: 193.0 in.
Width: 71.6 in.
Height: 56.0 in.
Wheelbase: 114.5 in.
Curb weight: 14.1 cu.ft.
Cargo space: 3771 lb.
Base price: $44,230
Price as tested: $48,995
Engine: 3.0 liter 24-valve V6
Drivetrain: six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Horsepower: 235 @ 6800
Torque: 216 @ 4100
Fuel capacity: 18.4 gal.
Est. mileage: 18/26